It’s not all that surprising a find, but the Detroit Lions had the youngest roster in the NFL last season according to a revealing deeper metric.
When an NFL team rebuilds, it automatically sheds veterans (or tries to), adds draft picks and naturally gets younger. The Detroit Lions started that process in 2021 by trading quarterback Matthew Stafford for three draft picks (two first-rounders) and Jared Goff.
So the Lions have also naturally leaned heavily on a lot of young players over the past two seasons, for worse or better. Last year, on the way to winning eight of their last 10 games and a 9-8 record, it was mostly for the better.
It’s easier to just look at a roster, average the age of everyone and determine which teams are young and old across the NFL. But Football Outsiders digs deeper with “Snap Weighted Age”, with age weighed with how may snaps players played to determine a truer average age for each team.
As Jeremy Reisman of Pride of Detroit noted, a team having a 38-year old backup quarterback or a 40-year old long snapper isn’t going to skew the results.
Detroit Lions had NFL’s youngest roster last year, based on Snap Weighted Age
It’s a scary thought that the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs were second youngest team in the NFL by Snap Weighted Age last season, at a total SWA of 25.4. Only the Lions, at 25.3, were younger.
Since 2006, when Football Outsiders starting using the metric, the 2022 Lions are the fourth-youngest team by SWA (25.28 technically). The 2021 Lions are fifth on the since-2006 list, at 25.33 in SWA.
By SWA, the Lions had the youngest defense (24.8) and the sixth-youngest offense (25.7) in the league last year. Their youngest individual positions were edge rusher (23.9), tight end (24.5) and defensive back (24.6).
With five of their six top-100 picks in this year’s draft in line for prominent roles as rookies, the Lions are sure to be back toward the top of the Snap Weighted Age list again for 2023. Free agent signings David Montgomery, Cameron Sutton, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Emmanuel Moseley are relatively young too. Sutton is the oldest of that listed group, at 28 years old.
The Lions are in a place a lot of teams would love to be–young, staying young, improving and in a division that’s there for the taking this year. Now it’s just a matter of reaching the expectations which are around them when it’s time to take the field.